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Sunday, April 22, 2012

FC Sion 0-3 FC Basel

Frei Strikes Two for Basel

Basel Three Points Closer To Axpo Super League Title

A good overall performance from both sides was the story of FC Sion's home fixture against current League Leaders FC Basel. The visitors are currently at the top of the table by thirteen points and the only thing that is certain fro Sion is that they will be playing football next season in the Challenge League after they were docked 22 points by the SFA for using unrostered players in a EUROPA League qualification match at the beginning of the season. Neither team really had anything to play for, yet the match was well-matched and both sides put in 100%, Basel emerging the better team. 
The first half opened much in favor of Basel in terms of possession but in favor of Sion in terms of chances on goal. The home side were able to work their way into the Basel eighteen yard box three times before Basel even threatened their defenders. Radoslav Kovac and Aleksandar Dragovic were able to avert the threats from Sion and Sommer was able to clean up any extra loose balls if the defense didn't do their job but for the most part Sommer had a slow afternoon back in goal. The visitors settled into a slow passing rhythm, dropping often and slow on the attack. The few times that they were forced to defend was when Sion were quick to catch the Basel midfield sleeping on the counter attack. 

If Sion were the more prominent side in shots on goal, Basel were the better side in terms of producing quality attempts on goal. Valentin Stocker had a close chance in the 22nd minute after a great buildup accumulated in Basel's half of the pitch. When Stocker and Streller's efforts for Basel were cleared away, the visitors were caught on the counter attack but were able to recuperate and clear the ball away for a corner kick. Sion's best chance in the half was denied by a great save from Sommer. Just before the halftime whistle right on the 45 minute mark, Basel believed that they had a penalty appeal when Stocker was clumsily challenged inside the box but the ref didn't see. Video footage clearly shows a fould and the ball being handled, but no penalty was given and the home side escaped a one goal deficit going into the half.

Within three minutes of the starting whistle of the second 45, Basel were in the lead. Veteran and top goalscorer Alex Frei put the ball into the back of the net when he was able to follow up, unchallenged, on the deflection from Marco Streller's initial shot on goal after Xherdan Shaqiri used his quick feet to get a short cross off across the front of the goal. Sion responded with a double substitution in the 55th minute and the fresh legs forced the Basel defense to concede a few free kicks. Sion were unable to convert any of their dead ball chances or through balls to goals, however and they did collect a few yellow cards. In the 70th minute, Danilo could have seen red for a dangerous and late tackle on Basel teenage midfielder Granit Xhaka, but he got away with a yellow and a caution after Xhaka was able to get back to his feet. The visitors took the pause in play to substitute Stocker for Jacques Zoua. 

Sion were able to create a few more good looks at goal, but Basel had the lead and only wanted to add to it. Sommer was forced to make a fantastic save when Danilo's cheeky backheel inside the Basel box landed at the feet of Rodrigo, but the shot was pushed wide of the post for a corner kick. In the 73rd minute, Basel scored again, this time their German right-back finding the back of the net with some impressive skills to beat two Sion defenders at close range and place the shot nicely with enough pace to beat the keeper to the near post. Alex Frei was able to top the win off for Basel with a cheeky flick over the head of the Sion keeper, who came off his line when Frei broke through his defensive backline. 

Basel can celebrate nothing more than another three points, but they are one fixture closer to lifting their third straight Axpo Super League title. Sion are doomed for Challenge League football but with the quality of their team, will surely be back among the dominant Swiss sides the following season. 

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